Canadian Thanksgiving and other random updates

I’m not exactly keeping up with the daily posts for #blogtober, so far… But it’s because we’ve been away for the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend and bouncing from one family gathering to the next. At my in-laws, Avery got to spend quality time with her two cousins. One is just 5 months older than her, and the other is 2 months old. She gives her baby cousin gentle kisses on the head, and she strokes her little arms and legs and touches her fingers and toes. She’ll just sit next to her and watch her with a look of wonder and tenderness in her eye. So that makes us definitely want to give her a sibling.

When we leave family get togethers, we almost always rant for half an hour in the car as we drive away, or one of us will be crying from something a family member said or did. Family. It’s complicated.

In other news, I’m anxiously awaiting my PhD data… Data I have collected so far has not looked as expected, which is not good. It’s taking longer than I expected to collect, too. Right now we’re (loosely) planning to have baby #2 after I’ve worked for the minimum of 600 hours required to collect employment insurance. To work, I need to first get a job. To get a job, I need to first defend my dissertation. To defend, I need to write it. To write it, I need data. Data that works out for my hypotheses. So there’s a lot of pressure on getting that data collected and getting it to work out for me.

And that’s pretty much all that life involves right now – family stuff and school pressure. Thankfully, we have an amazing kid to help us find joy in the everyday moments.

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Oh Crap! A mom’s experience with potty training

Potty training is exhausting. I think that the rip-the-bandaid-off style of the Oh Crap! Potty Training method might be the most exhausting. But for us, at least, it worked well and fast. In under 3 weeks from start to finish, my 24 month old was day-time potty trained. Here’s my review of the method, and my honest recollection of how it went for us. Link to buy the book at the end.

We embarked on potty training using this method a couple of days after my daughter turned 2. After the birthday party, we had a full 7 days at home with no daycare. So we ripped the bandaid. We got rid of diapers. Priority numero uno of this method is having a solid game plan. You have to be totally ready – mentally, emotionally, physically, to embark on what will be some of the most tiring and frustrating days of your parenting career (and you have to remain calm and collected during those stressful days, or it’ll backfire!) The book recommends taking 2 weeks from having read the book and deciding to go for it, to actually starting the process. There really is a lot of mental preparedness that goes into this, as a parent. Here’s what you’re preparing for:

The Oh Crap! method breaks down a condensed and rather intense process into blocks of learning. Blocks do not represent days, but I’ll share how many days we spent in each block.

Block 1

Block 1 requires your child to be naked all day, no leaving the house, all eyes on their little butt so you don’t miss a single pee or poop as it happens. That’s not even the exhausting stage. My kid did great in Block 1, and I thought we were going to get through the whole process unscathed.

The idea is to move them through the stages of bodily awareness, from:

  1. “clueless”
  2. “I peed”
  3. “I’m peeing”
  4. “I have to pee”

In that first morning, she had 7 pees on the floor (thanks to the juice box we gave her to give us more opportunity to practice). I caught all of them mid stream and relocated her to the potty, explaining that pee doesn’t go on the floor, it goes in the potty. She started out clueless to the sensation of peeing, but after all that practice of me naming it when she felt it run down her leg, she quickly progressed to “I’m peeing,” and even started to get a two second “I have to pee” warning. By 10am she had it figured out and peed in the potty every single time for the next day and a half. Poops were the same deal – she just GOT IT.

But then block 2 happened, and we had to really work for it. Turns out that cleaning up tons of pee and poop off the floor isnt the exhausting part – it’s battling your own internal voice that’s telling you you’re failing, not making progress, doing it wrong, or that your child isn’t ready afterall.

Block 2

This block introduces clothing, without underwear. The idea behind going commando is that underwear gives them the sensation of wearing a diaper in that it clings to their bums and makes them feel concealed, like no one will see if they pee or poop. That sensation triggers muscle memory to pee or poop anywhere/anytime, as they’ve done for every day of their existence thus far (that’s the logic behind the complete ditching-of-the-diapers approach with this method, as well).

Block 2 usually involves some resistance as your kid realizes you’re serious about this new arrangement and digs in their heels. We got the resistance. We saw the pee dance and had her sit on the potty, and then she’d get up, say “all done pee”, and then pee in her pants 30 seconds later. Or she’d full out refuse to sit on the potty with a terrible-two’s style tantrum. We felt like we were failing. We started to lose hope. We were frustrated. I caught myself getting short with my child for having an accident. These were dark days.

During Block 2, she started acting out a lot. She was under a lot of pressure. Even though we tried to be supportive and helpful to her in the process, she was being asked to suddenly stop doing something she had innately done every single day of her life prior, and start doing something that required a lot of body awareness and self-control. While necessary to learn, it’s a huge responsibility for little kids. The pressure was getting to her. She started waking through the night again, crying out into the darkness, “peed in bed! Pee goes in potty!” Heartbreaking.

This brings me to the fact that we didn’t even try night training. We chose to take it one step at a time – daytime potty training, while allowing a diaper to sleep in (totally permissible in the Oh Crap! book, by the way). So the fact that she was waking up freaking out about peeing the bed showed how deeply the potty training pressure was infiltrating her thoughts.

I’m lucky that we had a couple of friends who had used this method, and when we felt like ripping our hair out and drowning ourselves in vodka, we could check in with our friends and hear that they, too, went through the gamut of emotions: like sadness, disappointment, anger, guilt….

But just as the book and our friends promised, if you stay true to the cause and keep the stress and tension as low as humanly possible, and keep your eyes on your child every waking minute for any subtle sign of a pee/poop dance, you will succeed. The training will “click” for your child. For us this happened on about day 10.

Block 3

Block 3 doesn’t necessarily coincide with having the training “click” for your child. Block 3 is about testing their new skills outside of the home environment, and for many people (us included), this happens at daycare. My daughter started back at daycare on day 7, when she was still missing the potty (and I was missing her pee dance) about 30% of the time. Daycare was no different. Luckily, our daycare provider was willing to work with our game plan (and was willing to clean up pee off the floor all morning until it “clicked”). There’s a whole chapter in the book dedicated to working with daycares, though, as not everyone is as lucky as we are when it comes to flexible providers.

Block 4 and Beyond

This block of learning contains the details that you encounter in everyday life after potty training, like using public restrooms and introducing underwear (yeah, your kid is still commando after about a month).

By this block of learning, you’re starting to feel better about yourself and this whole process. Our real test of block 4 came with a trip to Avery’s cousin’s house. It was a 3 hour round trip in the car, a new environment, a trip to the park, and a restaurant trip, and she had zero accidents and even peed in the restaurant restroom. Accidents are much less common (we only had one this week, 3 weeks after starting), and only happen when she’s far too engaged in play to stop for a potty break and think she can hold it for longer than she can). But we feel justified in saying that our daughter is potty trained now because we no longer have to really think about “potty training”. We now have to think about things like if she pees before we need to leave the house, where the public restrooms are at every place we visit… But we no longer have to think about her peeing her pants while we’re out for a walk. We can take her to daycare, to the library, on car trips, and we know that she knows – reliably – that pee and poop go in the potty, not in her pants/carseat/the floor.

Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (Oh Crap Parenting)

Potty training with the Oh Crap! method, like with slower, child-led methods, is a long process. It’s going to be another couple of months probably before we get rid of the little potty and just have her always go on the big toilet. It’s also going to be a few months before we night train (even though she always wakes up with a dry diaper, she seems relieved to know that she won’t have to worry about going potty when she’s sleeping, and we’re going to give her that break). We’re going to bring the potty with us in the car for long car trips, pack a spare pair of pants, and continue to remind her to go pee before leaving the house, probably for the next year. But right now we have a kid who knows how to get her pee and poop in the potty, rarely has accidents, can hold it for long enough to get to the potty within a reasonable distance, and feels confident in pulling her own pants down and using the potty even when we’re not in the room with her. And it took a little over 2 weeks.

If you think you can handle the intensity of this potty training method without showing your frustration and stress to your child, I absolutely recommend the Oh Crap! method. It’s fast, it’s dirty, and it works.

*side note: If you’re thinking of trying this method based only on what I’ve written in this blog post, know that the book contains all of the step-by-step instructions for the Blocks of Learning in just one chapter. That’s the simple stuff. The rest of the book is chock full of supportive, myth busting info, and SO MUCH TROUBLESHOOTING. It’s worth the $7.

a little potty training spoiler

We’re potty training. I’m slowly drafting a big post about our experience using the Oh Crap! method, but we’re only on day 7 and I’m currently feeling the stress. Avery’s feeling the stress. It a highly intensive and stressful process, for both kids and adults. Poor Avery has been expressing her stress through restless sleep and frequent tantrums. She has been waking through the night crying “peed the bed! Pee goes in potty!”, despite the fact that she still wears a nighttime diaper specifically so she can sleep well without worrying about going potty. My wife and I haven’t talked about much besides potty training over the last 7 days. We’re constantly trying to discern if we’re going in the right direction, if this is working, if we’re supporting our little potty learner enough…

Don’t get me wrong, we are seeing progress. We are not giving up. I’m hopeful that in a couple of weeks I can publish my review of the Oh Crap! book and have a positive message about how well it worked!

Wish us luck! And send vodka.

The parent preference

Bedtimes are pretty lovely now when it’s my night to put Avery to bed. She’s agreeable, and she loves to flop on her bed and read the agreed-upon number of books together, and then cuddle in close to fall asleep. I listen to her singing songs quietly to herself, and I get lots of kisses and hugs.

But when my wife puts her to bed, it’s still cause for an emotional breakdown. My wife does bedtime for 2 nights on, 2 nights off. We take turns, and keep that pattern consistent. But on the nights my wife is on, Avery screams and cries that she doesn’t want her Mo – she wants to sleep with mommy. She won’t let her Mo hold her books and instead piles them up at her bedroom door saying they’re for mommy. She pleads with her Mo that mommy is right on the other side of the door (“mommy right there!”) and that she wants mommy instead. Eventually, after about 10 minutes of crying and pleading, she gives in and lets her Mo read her books and then cuddles up with her to fall asleep. But if she so much as hears a floorboard creak outside her door, she gets upset again, asking for mommy. I take off as soon as I’ve said goodnight and get as far away from her room as possible because I hate hearing her cry for me when I can’t go to her.

It’s so hard on my wife. I don’t know what to do to change the situation, if there’s even anything we can do. I hope she comes around to her Mo soon.

On a related note, she still asks for milk at every bedtime, even though we weaned almost 2 months ago. She asks, and then remembers, “milk all gone.” She then settles for her water, but will “forget” and ask again a couple of times during each bedtime. It’s wild how hard-wired nursing was in her brain, and how hard it was for her to give it up.

I miss breastfeeding

When I look at my tired old breasts now I see vestiges of what they once were – what they could be. Light and empty, they hang there useless against my chest. I miss breastfeeding. When I see both new babies and older toddlers at their parent’s breast for nourishment and comfort, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach. My almost-2-year-old still asks for milk at bedtime every now and then, even though It’s been over a month since we weaned. She asks with a sadness in her voice, because she knows I have no milk left to give. Instead, I let her rest her hand on my chest and I listen as her mouth starts making that nursing sound into the darkness. She would still derive so much comfort and connection from breastfeeding.

There have been very few moments since weaning that have made me feel thankful for being done with breastfeeding. Ocassionally I’m happy to have a bedtime to myself, but mostly I just miss laying with her anyway, and my poor wife still struggles with being our daughter’s second choice. I listen through the monitor as she drifts off to sleep next to my wife, muttering “mommy on other side the door? Mommy missing?”

I thought I’d be thankful for the freedom of having my body back, but all that freedom afforded me was the ability to have more than one drink before bedtime, and it turns out that two drinks makes me feel rather nauseous now. I’d much rather be able to feed and comfort my child with my body than to have my body all to myself for the purpose of having more booze.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post – I’m just writing down my feelings. I don’t regret weaning, per say, but I do now question my motives for weaning when we did. From the moment breastfeeding started to become second nature to us, I assumed we’d continue on until she weaned herself. I assumed that would be well after the age of 2. But I wanted to help my wife feel like less of a “second” parent. We felt that ending the breastfeeding relationship that bonded us together so powerfully would create more of a level playing field between parents. But the truth is, I’m still in the role of primary caregiver. I spend way more time with our daughter, and that makes me more in-tune with her needs, and that makes me the natural first choice to come to when she needs something.

I also question myself now for being motivated by social pressure. I felt it as soon as she turned one. People were often surprised to hear that our daughter still nursed to sleep (or nursed to sleep at all, since that’s frowned upon by more conservative, by-the-book parents). When I expressed some mixed feelings about weaning, a family member told me that she was too old for that anyway. I heard a lot of comments about independence, and how breastfeeding a toddler was effectively keeping her dependent on me, like I just couldn’t let my baby go even though she wasn’t a baby anymore.

I know there’s no turning back, and I’m ok with that. I’ll always let her rest her hand on me, where she once got all of her nourishment, comfort, and that rush of love hormones. I’ll always smile when I hear that tongue clicking noise in the night, as her muscle memory lives on. And when she looks at my chest now with love in her expression and asks to plant a kiss on a part of me that was always there for her, my heart will always melt into a puddle on the floor. Despite society’s perverse warning that breastfeeding toddlers and older children will leave them with inappropriate memories of nursing at their mother’s breast, I know that my daughter has happy memories of our breastfeeding relationship, and I hope she’ll always feel that special, nourishing, connection to me.

Nap training a toddler

Avery hasn’t napped anywhere but in the car or in the stroller since we weaned. She has given us a few tantrums when we’ve tried. One of them even lasted for 2 hours before I gave up on nap time for that day. But she has been starting to refuse to get into the stroller when she knows it’s to nap, and I can’t keep burning gas for a 2 hour nap. So, nap training had to happen.

Day 1.

It was a bit unplanned. I realized the stroller was in the back of my wife’s car, at work with her. I explained to Avery on the drive home from her half-day daycare that we were going to have a nap in her bed today, because it was time for her to learn to fall asleep in a bed at naptime. I told her we could read a book and then we’d lay down together on her bed.

She started crying immediately – still on the drive home. “No bed!!! Mommy drive car!! Tv!! Paw patrol!! No bed!” She was begging for any alternative.

I dragged her, kicking and screaming, into the house and up to her room. I dimmed the lights.

For the next hour and a half, she had a violent tantrum. I had to hold the door closed (from the inside – I stayed with her). I asked if she wanted me to leave, in case my presence was making it worse, but she said “mommy stay!”. She screamed like a demon. I tried to strike a balance in my voice between calm/loving and stern/confident. I kept my words short and infrequent to allow her to get her rage out. When I spoke, I repeated,

“I love you, and you need to sleep.”

“We’re staying here for nap time. You can cry on the floor, or you can come and cuddle with me and go to sleep.”

“Come to bed now.”

She didn’t calm down and take a breath. Like, at all. I eventually had to start physically removing her from her door handle and putting her in bed. Every other second. When I would say “I love you” she started to scream “I love you” back, and I began to worry that I was somehow emotionally abusing her – making her think she needed to say I love you to get away from my grasp. I had to physically block her from leaving her bed. Her eyes were rolling back in her head. I could just see white through her exhausted squint. She had bags under her eyes. She was hoarse, losing her voice. She could barely stand up when she would escape the bed – she’d stumble and fall and hit her head on the floor. She was so exhausted.

We were both soaked in sweat. Her hair was plastered to her forehead.

I knew I couldn’t lose resolve, or this would all be for nothing. She wouldn’t understand why I was being so authoritative if I suddenly gave up and let her leave her room and not nap. It was hard.

But then she went limp. She just couldn’t fight any more. She whimpered, through closed eyes, “read book?” I grabbed her favourite alphabet bedtime book from beside the bed and started reading it very quietly and softly. Her eyes remained closed. Once I heard the snores, I put down the book and breathed. It worked.

Now to do it all over again tomorrow.

Duty Calls: Balancing work & family

We’ve been away every weekend this summer, we’ve been sick a lot making for a lot of missed daycare, and our daycare provider is on holidays this week. I haven’t been getting work done. Tonight, my wife is primary caregiver while I sit at a restaurant/lounge and do some work over a pint.

It feels different than it used to to sit at this place and work. When you’re a parent, part of your brain is always on your child(ren). I can’t get lost in my work like I used to. I know my wife will be totally fine with the full bedtime routine because she has been doing so well putting Avery to sleep since we weaned, but I feel shitty about the way I had to leave Avery tonight – I had to sneak out. I tried saying goodbye in a casual, non-chalant way – “see ya later, sweetie, I have to go do some work,” but she started screaming and clung to my legs begging to be picked up. So we got her distracted with some fun task and I snuck out.

She has been very sensitive about my absence lately. You can see her get nervous as bedtime approaches, not knowing if she’ll get me or her Mo. We have yet to settle into a new routine regarding which one of us puts her to bed. I’ve put her to sleep twice now, and it has gone fairly well both times. We’re going to settle into a two-nights-on two-nights-off schedule so that bath night (which happens every other night) isn’t always the same parent’s responsibility. The parent who gives her her bath and gets her ready for bed won’t be the same parent who reads her books in bed and lays with her till she falls asleep. She’ll get both of us every night. She just has to get used to the new normal.

I’m still in a “I miss breastfeeding” phase.I feel like I’ve lost a superpower. But I know it’s not a real regret, just nostalgia. And Avery only asks for milk once every other day or so now, and doesn’t get upset when I remind her that it’s all gone. She has been such a strong little person.